Could Dave Steckel be the Caps player to be traded?

davesteckel2.jpgThe recent fun with the drama surrounding Eric Belanger’s impending re-signing with the Washington Capitals is that it’s created the more intriguing stir about what move the Capitals are going to make to help Belanger better fit into the fold. While initial rumor mongering suggested that Tomas Fleischmann could be the guy heading out of town, Capitals blog Japers Rink has someone else in mind to ship out of town should the Caps need to do it. J.P. suggests that David Steckel is the guy being eyeballed by Caps GM George McPhee.

Belanger, [Mathieu] Perreault, [Marcus] Johansson, [Brooks] Laich and Fleischmann are probably all in the running for the second-line center spot (in varying degrees) at present, with one of Laich and Flash also as potential top-six wingers. No matter how that shakes out, Belanger, Laich and Fleischmann are locks for second or third line spots, with Alexander Semin also a second-line lock and Eric Fehr sure to be a top-nine forward. That leaves four forward spots (likely the third-line center and the entire fourth line) up for grabs, with Johansson the most likely candidate for the third-line center spot and Perreault, Gordon, Steckel, Matt Bradley and D.J. King fighting for three positions (to say nothing of a Hershey guy like Jay Beagle or Andrew Gordon making a bid). That’s quite the logjam on the back end.

So if the Caps had their choice of whom to move from that surplus of checking forwards, who would they want to trade? Perreault has value as a fill-in on a higher line, especially if prized prospect Johansson isn’t quite ready for the NHL. Bradley is a heart-and-soul leader, with a manageable contract – one year, $1 million. Gordon really stepped up his game in the playoffs last spring, but more importantly has a good deal – one year, $800,000. The Caps actively sought out King last month, so it surely wouldn’t be him.

That leaves David Steckel, a fine enough fourth-liner (though be careful not to overstate the importance of a good faceoff percentage – see here, here and here), but with a bad contract, one that will pay him $1,100,000 in each of the next three seasons. It’s not a cripplingly bad deal, of course, but rather one that’s tough to love for a guy whose game regressed in 2009-10 (I strongly recommend re-reading his Rink Wrap) and who was a healthy scratch in four of the seven playoff games, when cheaper checkers like Blair Betts (and Boyd Gordon) seem to be available every summer.

With that sort of contract for Steckel, it makes a ton of sense to want to potentially deal off the face-off specialist fourth liner. After all, if you’re making over a million dollars, playing a handful of minutes doesn’t quite make that financial investment worthwhile, especially on a fixed budget like the salary cap. Swapping out Steckel to a team looking for a player of his caliber (checking center, great with face-offs) looking to move a player with a larger salary can work for the Caps. The Caps aren’t in immediate danger of the salary cap and could stand to take on something a little bit bigger in return provided it’s not a long term contract. So who could that mean they’d be interested in?

Could the Caps expect to get much of anything in return for Steckel? Probably not, unless they found a potential trade partner who was looking to unload a moderate salary to free up some cap space… which is where a team like Vancouver comes in. Say they move the oft-rumored Kevin Bieksa for Steckel. The ‘Nucks save $2.65 million of cap hit (coincidentally, nearly the exact amount of salary they need to drop, per CapGeek), move a player from a position of overflowing depth, and better their bottom-six forwards. The Caps, in such a move, would upgrade their defense, move a player from a position of overflowing depth, be out from under Steckel’s deal for the next three years, and pick up an affordable – and expiring – deal in Bieksa. Because it rids the team of a bad contract, a deal like that makes sense for the Caps in a way that signing Willie Mitchell doesn’t (though, to be sure, a Mitchell signing makes sense in numerous ways this hypothetical would not, namely providing more of what the Caps need on the ice).

And, boom, you’ve got yourself a deal that makes sense for both parties involved money-wise.

There is a catch here though. The Canucks have added Manny Malhotra who is a more talented version of Steckel and also making a bit more money as well. Malhotra figures to be the team’s third line center while Rick Rypien could be the guy that holds down the fourth line. Rypien is a scrapper unafraid to drop the gloves if need be and an ideal energy line brand of player. If the Canucks are that eager to move some money off the cap, and they do have a surplus of defensemen even with Sami Salo out with an injury, taking on Steckel would only help them out with forward depth.

This is all idle speculation and trade-crafting at its best, but this is a situation where one often rumored player-to-be-traded fits into the needs of what another newly rumored player-to-be-traded can do for the other team.

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    Full Schedule: 2018 Stanley Cup Final

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    The 2018 Stanley Cup Final matchup is set and it will be the Washington Capitals against the Vegas Golden Knights.

    So many different storylines to consider. George McPhee vs. his old team. Alex Ovechkin going for his first ever Cup ring. Former Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury against the Capitals. And the obvious one with the Golden Knights and their inaugural season success. It should be a fun one.

    Here’s the full schedule:

    Game 1 Monday, May 28 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 2 Wednesday, May 30 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Game 3 Saturday, June 2 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Game 4 Monday, June 4 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 5* Thursday, June 7 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 6* Sunday, June 10 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 7* Wednesday, June 13 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    * = If necessary

    MORE:
    NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Ovechkin, Capitals headed to Stanley Cup Final after Game 7 triumph

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    Alex Ovechkin will get his chance.

    The Great 8 will contest for the Stanley Cup after his Washington Capitals defeated their past demons and the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday.

    Yes, the Capitals — a team that had to overcome a horrific playoff record against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and then had to deal the disappointment of beginning the Conference Final with wins in Games 1 and 2 only to drop three straight to trail 3-2.

    They took care of business in Game 6, and that train kept chugging along into Game 7.

    Ovi put his stamp on Game 7 just 62 seconds in as he wired a one-timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    The first period was a wild affair, filled with scuffles, a fight and stolen jersey.

    And then Andre Burakovsky arrived.

    Burakovsky missed the first 12 games of the plays because of injury and then followed that up with seven games without a point.

    He revealed earlier in the series that he lays a mental beating on himself too often. So Game 7 must have felt pretty good.

    Burakovsky scored on two separate breakaways in the second period.

    The first came off a brutal giveaway from Dan Girardi in his own zone. His second came after the Lightning got caught on a bad change.

    Tampa looked like a shell of their former selves. They dusted themselves off after dropping the first two at home, but simply stopped scoring after the 33-second mark in the second period of Game 5.

    [PHT’s Three Stars]

    Braden Holtby showed up at precisely the right moment in the series, posting consecutive shutouts to close out the series.

    Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, meanwhile, were far from brilliant. No one over the last seven periods and change was on the Lightning.

    The Lightning went 159:33 without scoring. Ouch.

    You can’t win games when you don’t score, something the Lightning will have all summer to ponder. They led the NHL with 296 goals this season, all of which means sweet nothing now.

    And now the attention turns to one of the more intriguing Cup Finals in a long time.

    One of the greatest players of all-time with a chance to win his first Cup silence his critics after years of disappointment against the best story in sports, period.

    Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final begins Monday, May 28 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

    In the words of Bart Scott, “Can’t wait.”

    MORE:
    NHL Playoffs 2018: Stanley Cup Final TV Schedule

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    PHT’s Three Stars: Burakovsky’s goals push Capitals into Stanley Cup Final

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    1st Star: Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals

    After being benched earlier in the series, Burakovsky responded in a big way in Game 7 scoring twice as the Capitals moved on to the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    2nd Star: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

    Holtby finished the Eastern Conference Final in a strong way, posting a second straight shutout while making 29 saves. The Capitals netminder has not allowed a goal since 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5.

    3rd Star: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

    The captain only needed 62 seconds to open the scoring and quiet the AMALIE Arena crowd.

    [Ovechkin, Capitals headed to Stanley Cup Final after Game 7 triumph]

    Highlight of the Night:

    A wild first period included a tilt between Tom Wilson and Braydon Coburn:

    Factoid of the Night:

    Stanley Cup Final schedule
    Game 1 Monday, May 28 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 2 Wednesday, May 30 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Game 3 Saturday, June 2 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
    Game 4 Monday, June 4 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 5* Thursday, June 7 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 6* Sunday, June 10 – Golden Knights at Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    Game 7* Wednesday, June 13 – Capitals at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
    * = If necessary

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Brooks Orpik leaves Game 7 after Paquette’s hit from behind

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    While the Washington Capitals built up a lead in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday, they lost two players before the end of the second period.

    First, Devante Smith-Pelly blocked a Ryan McDonagh shot with the back of his neck in the first period. After returning to the game, he would leave the Capitals’ bench late in the second period.

    Joining him would be Orpik, who took a big hit from behind along the boards from Lightning forward Cedric Paquette. As Orpik was being tended to, the officials got together and determined that there would no penalty on the play, which is an odd decision.

    As Orpik goes to get the puck in the corner, he does peek over his shoulder and sees Paquette a ways away, but he doesn’t change his body position as Paquette drills him. He’s probably not expecting to get hit even with the Lightning forward in the area. That would have easily been at least a major, maybe even a game misconduct (Remember Steve Bernier?).

    The Capitals would respond to the hit two minutes later. On the scoreboard. Andre Burakovsky potted his second goal of the night to give Washington a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the third period.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.